Fears of sectarian Brexit-linked riots as second bus is hijacked and burned near Belfast

It is the second such incident in and around Belfast in the past week

Lamiat Sabin
Monday 08 November 2021 01:08
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<p>Four men ordered passengers to get off the bus before it was set on fire, police said </p>

Four men ordered passengers to get off the bus before it was set on fire, police said

A double-decker bus was hijacked and set on fire near a loyalist estate on the outskirts of Belfast in what could be another protest against the Northern Ireland protocol.

Police said four men boarded the bus in Church Road near Rathcoole in Newtownabbey, Co Antrim, at about 7.45pm on Sunday evening and ordered passengers to get off.

The bus was then set alight across the road.

Stormont infrastructure minister Nichola Mallon was among those to post footage online of the vehicle on fire.

Last Monday a bus was hijacked and burned in a loyalist area of Newtownards, Co Down, while disorder also broke out at a community interface in west Belfast twice last week.

A community interface is a location, mainly in working-class neighbourhoods, where segregated nationalist and unionist residential streets and estates meet.

Youths from nationalist Springfield Road and loyalist Shankill Road attacked police with missiles on Wednesday and Bonfire Night on Friday.

The disorder on Wednesday had followed a protest and rally against the Northern Ireland Protocol.

That part of the Brexit agreement states that all checks on goods traveling from Britain to Northern Ireland should instead be carried out at ports on either side of the Irish Sea. Many unionists believe this has created a border between Britain and Northern Ireland.

Ms Mallon tweeted: “Our bus drivers are working class people who deserve to be safe in their jobs. What does this madness achieve?!”

A Police Service of Northern Ireland spokesman said: “Police received a report of a hijacking incident in the Church Road area of Newtownabbey at around 7.45pm on Sunday evening.

“It was reported that four men got onto the bus and ordered passengers off before the bus was then set alight.

The violence comes after PM Boris Johnson and Brexit minister Lord Frost have argued the EU’s interpretation of the Brexit deal has led to difficulties which have created the condition to justify the use of Article 16 of the Northern Ireland Protocol.

Triggering Article 16 would effectively suspend elements of the arrangement that effectively keeps Northern Ireland inside the EU's single market for goods, resulting in some checks for products crossing the Irish Sea from the rest of the UK.

Mr Johnson’s government gave the EU a December deadline to find a solution on the protocol.

Any British move to suspend parts of the Northern Ireland protocol could prompt the EU to do likewise with the Brexit trade deal, Ireland's foreign minister Simon Coveney has warned.

Brussels would respond in a “very serious way,” he said in warning against moves that could spark a trade war.

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